Kim Mitchell on the re-rise and re-fall of Max Webster



By Steve Newton

If, like me, you’re a Kim Mitchell fan from way back, you may have been wondering just where the hell he’s been lately. I mean, he hasn’t played Vancouver in nine years, whereas in the ’80s he’d show up regularly to be a wild party and shake like a human being. When the 47-year-old Canuck-rock legend calls from his home in Toronto, he explains that he’s been in “marriage-breakup hell”, spending most of his time at the lawyer’s and the bank. But that didn’t stop him from coming to stinkin’ Point Roberts a few years back on the Max Webster reunion tour.

So what’s Vancouver? Chopped liver?

“We kinda look at it [Point Roberts] as Vancouver, I guess,” explains Mitchell sheepishly. “We figure it’s close enough. It’s not, really. But you get asked to play certain places, and no one was really asking us to play Vancouver, so we just went, ‘I guess we’re not gonna play there.’”

Even though it might have been more fun with a Vancouver stop on its itinerary—where’s a concert promoter when you need one?—Mitchell claims the Max Webster tour was a gas. But the band didn’t get back together just for old times’ sake. “We did it to kind of shut people up,” says Mitchell with a chuckle, “because everybody was goin’, like, ‘Hey man, is Max Webster ever gonna play again?’ I used to get it every time I went out, to the grocery store or wherever. And no one [from the band] was being sued, no one was in psychotherapy, so we all kinda went, ‘Let’s do this.’

“And it was kinda funny,” he adds. “At the end of it we’re all sittin’ around real quiet in the dressing room—like a team after they’ve lost the game, maybe—and the drummer said the last words: ‘Well, there it was, the re-rise and the re-fall of Max Webster. Only this time it didn’t take 10 years, just four months.’ So that broke the ice. I started to howl, and we all sorta had a big hug.”

Anyone who ever grooved to the vinyl-era sounds of High Class in Borrowed Shoes or A Million Vacations knows what a tight act Webster was, and the same can be said about Mitchell’s current band, which comprises the players from his new CD, Kimosabe. Bassist-vocalist Peter Fredette—best-known for his awesome vocal performance on the ’84 Mitchell hit “All We Are”—will be at the Commodore on Friday (March 3), along with keyboardist Gary Breit and drummer Randy Cooke. “They’re a very inspiring bunch of goombahs to play with,” notes Mitchell. “I mean, this band plows in a very serious way.”

Mitchell has been known to churn things up pretty good himself; his status as an influential rock guitarist is undeniable. But when the conversation turns to keyboardist Breit’s guitar-playing brother Kevin, Mitchell goes into “I’m not worthy!” mode. It turns out that Kevin Breit is among the three players who have most inspired him, the other two being Allan Holdsworth and Eddie Van Halen.

“Holy fuck, I go watch him every Monday!” says the Toronto Tonto. “He has this group called Sisters Euclid and he plays in this little bar and it’s packed with musicians—you can’t move in there. And he just explodes. I joke around with Gary all the time, saying, ‘Fuck, what happened to you? Your brother got all the talent!’ ”

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